Seville, Spain, Jun 11 (efe-epa).- The pandemic-interrupted LaLiga season resumed here Thursday with a 2-0 Sevilla victory over Real Betis in the derby.
Playing behind closed doors on their home ground at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, third-place Sevilla climbed to 50 points, 4 more than Real Sociedad, who have a game in hand. Betis, now 12th on 33 points, could find themselves overtaken in the next few days by Levante and/or Alaves.
Lucas Ocampos was the man of the match, scoring the first goal and assisting on the second.
LaLiga, like the Bundesliga, which returned to action on May 16, has changed the rules to allow five substitutions per game instead of the usual three and Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui took the opportunity to experiment with his lineup.
The starting 11 included Ocampos, Munir El Haddadi and Oliver Torres, with stalwarts Ever Banega and Mudo Vazquez held in reserve.
Real Betis manager Rubi likewise served up some surprises, leaving out Aïssa Mandi, Andres Guardado, Joaquin Sanchez and the team’s top scorer, Loren Moron, in favor of Sidnei da Silva, Carles Aleña, Cristian Tello and Borja Iglesias.
The visitors began with a high press to hamper Sevilla on the attack, but they couldn’t sustain it for long and only the post prevented Ocampos from scoring in the 10th minute.
The effect of the long layoff may have been on display as Sevilla’s Jules Kounde and Luuk de Jong failed to capitalize on solid opportunities before the break.
Sevilla dialed up the intensity in the second half and the effort bore fruit in the 56th minute with the awarding of a penalty for a Marc Bartra tackle of De Jong.
Betis protested, but a VAR review confirmed the referee’s call and Ocampos converted from the spot to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
Rubi responded by making a double-substitution at the hour mark, two minutes before Fernando Reges headed the ball past Betis keeper Joel Robles to make it 2-0 for Sevilla on a perfectly executed play that featured a back-heel pass by Ocampos.
Down by two goals with 20 minutes left, Rubi used his last change to replace Iglesias with Moron and Betis improved enough to keep Sevilla keeper Tomas Vaclik on his toes.
But the hosts showed their capacity for game management and claimed all 3 points.
The players and coaches, officials, support staff and media workers inside the stadium observed a minute of silence before the match in honor of Covid-19 victims – the virus has killed 27,136 people in Spain – and applause was piped through the sound system in the 20th minute in a salute to health care professionals. EFE agr/dr